Three expert tips from a PAM Life nutrition coach, Sara.
The million-dollar question is, ‘how can I eat the food I enjoy and still lose weight?’. It seems impossible, right? The reality is, if you crack this question, you’ll unlock the secret to long term weight loss. Successful weight loss is a lot to do with how we think about food and what’s going on mentally for us. Often, we act with willpower alone, over short periods and deprive ourselves of our favourite foods. The thing is though, the more we deprive ourselves of these foods, the more attractive they become, almost the ‘forbidden fruit’ if you like, and therefore, the more we crave them. In this article, I’ve set out three top tips to help you to embrace your weight loss journey whilst still enjoying eating what you love.
1. Eat your meals first (treats after meals)
Planning treats in after your meals means you should be less hungry and more in control of the quantity that you consume. I’m sure you can relate to a time that you might have arrived home, starving hungry, and raided the snack cupboard whilst cooking your tea. If we did this the other way around and had our tea, then raided the snack cupboard we would be more likely to be in control. Yes, I am saying it’s still okay to enjoy chocolate, sweets and treat foods, even on a diet. I think it’s crucial to a healthy lifestyle to enjoy a little treat each day, depriving yourself of the foods you love ends up with an increased likelihood over consumption, so allow yourself to add in a little bit of what you love each day.
The important thing is to eat a healthy balanced meal first, wait for this to settle, and then openly ask yourself:
2. Cheat meals can backfire
Cheat meals are basically where you plan a day of the week, or a meal during the week where you allow yourself to eat whatever you like, including any of your favourite foods or unhealthy treats. One of the theories go, that if you allow yourself to have this ‘binge’ you will be able to more easily stick to your strict diet methods during the week, you will curb deprivation and at the same time reach your weight goals. Cheat meals though can easily backfire, or promote the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.
Bottling your cravings
Bottling up your cravings throughout the week could just intensify these feelings, meaning you believe you desire these foods, or meal much more than you actually do. With this in mind, portion control can go out of the window unintentionally, because you've been so restrictive during the week your cheat meal turns into a binge. It's also common to feel guilty after a cheat meal or to go over the top, meaning that you intensify your dieting rules or exercise the following week.
Number of calories consumed
It's also possible that during your cheat meal, you total up so many calories that it makes it difficult to be in a calorie deficit the following week. This means, that sometimes you can be really good in the week, and not see any results because you have consumed so much during your cheat meal.
If you do like the idea of planning in a cheat meal, it might be a good idea to rename the cheat meal to a self-love meal. This would be a meal where you would allow yourself to indulge in the foods that you enjoy, but remember that this is a self-love meal so your aim is to nurture your mind and body. This means, eating some treat foods, but not eating beyond fullness, or to excess. Personally, I find it’s a lot more sustainable to have a small treat each day than to bottle these feelings up and then lack self-control when I allow myself to indulge.
3. Focus on moving more and exercise for enjoyment
Another common pitfall is that when trying to lose weight, people often focus on their diet alone, instead of combining diet and exercise which is much more effective. The trouble is, clients often tell me that they only take part in exercise to help them to lose weight and will often opt for more vigorous classes to burn through as many calories as possible, but that they don’t enjoy doing this. Whilst any exercise is great and it’s brilliant that so many calories are being burnt, the fact is that very intense exercise (unless you are used to it), is difficult to maintain. You might also find that you eat more due to changes in your hormone levels and energy output. This could mean that, although you’re burning more calories than say, a long gentle walk, you actually eat more too, which balances out the deficit and means your extra efforts aren’t getting you to your goal any quicker.
My advice here would be to try and get a little more movement into your day without really feeling like you are exercising, this could be standing up more often and going for a little walk, using the bathroom that's further away, using the stairs instead of an escalator and even things like taking phone calls whilst walking instead of sitting down. In terms of physical activity, when starting on your weight loss journey I’d be suggesting that you choose something that you enjoy, regardless of the type of exercise this is. By choosing something that you enjoy it’ll be easier to create a new habit, so for example 6pm Monday – Friday, becomes your focussed exercise time that you look forward to, which makes it much easier to then stick to your new routine and increase intensity when you feel ready to.